Topics: News about Afghanistan, evacuation of AMCITs, LPRs, and at-risk Afghans, and the humanitarian crisis. DoS finally admits higher numbers of America citizens; but low-balls the amount of LPRs. How Green Berets at FBNC assisted evacuees from afar, ‘red-flagged’ evacuees, Congressional hearing (video), humanitarian crisis, the economy, pilots in Tajikistan, and more.
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DoS: More Americans Than Previously Stated. The Department of State finally acknowledged what the veteran volunteer groups working the Afghan evacuation of American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Afghans at-risk have been proclaiming all since August. On Friday DoS conceded there are significantly more Americans in Afghanistan than previously estimated. The State Department briefed congressional staff this past week that it was in touch with 363 Americans and 176 legal permanent residents – “LPRs” with green cards. Apparently the Department of State is not in touch with the vast majority of the more than 1,000 LPRs that are attempting to leave the country. (Fox News, Oct 23, 2021).
Active Duty Green Berets Worked Rescues During Off-Duty Hours. A small group of Special Forces soldiers from Fort Bragg took on the task of helping Afghans get onto the Kabul international airport during the frantic days of August 2021. Working in an unofficial capacity the SF soldiers worked with contacts on the Kabul airport and with veteran groups recently established like Team America to guide U.S. citizens, LPRs, and Afghans with a Special Immigrant Visa through the massive crowds of Afghans jamming the entry points of the airport and onto a plane to take them out of the country. “Green Berets’ work to free Afghans comes with a personal cost”, Army Times, October 22, 2021.
The Numbers and ‘Bad Characters’. According to officials, about 76,000 Afghan evacuees have now arrived in the United States. Over 4,000 remain overseas, have been cleared in the security and medical process, and are awaiting flights (and space in the U.S. military camps) for a departure to the United States. These numbers don’t include the number of Afghan evacuees in other locations that were brought out by private volunteer groups on charter flights and who are now in “Humanitarian City” in the UAE, Albania, or other locations and not under DoD or DoS control.
Some Evacuees are ‘Red Flagged’. Several dozen of Afghan evacuees, out of over 55,000, have been identified as a person with apparent criminal pasts or with links to militants. The ‘suspects’ have been sent to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo where they will await a decision on their future fate. This NATO base has been given permission to house Afghans for up to one year – as long as they stay on the base. The Department of State is looking at future options for this special class of Afghan evacuees. Charlie Savage provides a detailed look at the security screening process conducted before an Afghan evacuee enters the United States. “U.S. Struggles With Afghan Evacuees Weeded Out, and Now in Limbo”, The New York Times, October 23, 2021.
Afghan Pilots in Tajikistan – Families Threatened by Taliban. Nearly 150 U.S.-trained Afghan military pilots have sought refuge in Tajikistan since the Taliban seized Kabul in August. The Taliban are pressuring the pilots to return to Afghanistan by threatening to kill their relatives. The pilots and their families hope to go to the United States soon. (Radio Free Europe, Oct 23, 2021).
Chaos on Kabul Airport and the Aftermath. The chaotic American withdrawal saw a dramatic evacuation of Afghans desperate to leave via military airlift and not all ‘the right Afghans’ got out. The confusion and chaos at HKIA forced individual soldiers, aid workers, and journalists to decide which Afghans would be saved. “Who Gets to Escape the Taliban”, The New Yorker, October 23, 2021.
Video – Operation Allies Welcome: Examining DHS’s Efforts to Resettle Vulnerable Afghans. On Thursday, October 21, 2021 the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security conducted a meeting on the DHS and resettlement of Afghans. YouTube, one hour. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8efcUXOE_b0&t=40s
Volunteer Organizations – Assisting in Resettlement. There are hundreds of large and small non-profit organizations that are contributing to the effort to resettle the thousands of Afghan evacuees that are moving into America’s communities across the United States. Some have been established for years while others are new arrivals focused on the Afghan evacuees. One group based in Connecticut is Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services. IRIS partners with community groups throughout Connecticut to help refugee families restart their lives.
Greece Stepping Up. One of the European nations known as a ‘transit site’ for refugees from the Middle East and Africa attempting to get to northern Europe where the ‘refugee benefits are plentiful’ is going to assist with 35 Afghan human rights workers and their families. These families were transported from North Macedonia to Greece. There are currently several hundred Afghans in Greece being housed on a temporary basis. “Greece to shelter Afghan human rights workers, families”, The Washington Post, October 21, 2021.
Afghan Evacuees Housed in Hotels for One Year. UK officials are struggling to find housing for thousands of Afghans who were evacuated to the United Kingdom this past August and September. Some will spend up to one year living in a hotel. However, it appears that the necessary planning, coordination, and preparation has been a bit lacking. “Afghan refugees may be housed in UK hotels for up to a year, say councils”, The Guardian, October 21, 2021.
Afghans Venturing into US Communities. The United States has begun discharging thousands of Afghan evacuees from military facilities and placing them in cities and towns across the country. This is a new phase of the huge resettlement process. In recent weeks, over 6,000 have left the temporary camps on U.S. military installations for U.S. communities. Another 3,000 U.S. citizens, green card holders, and others with visas have left the facilities on their own. “Afghan evacuees start to leave U.S. military sites as part of new resettlement phase”, CBS News, October 21, 2021.
Life Under the Taliban
Humanitarian Crisis. Afghanistan is on the verge of a crisis as winter approaches. The economy is in a shambles, people with jobs are not getting paid, many have lost their jobs, and food is scarce. An abrupt end to billions of dollars being pumped into the Afghan economy has worsened the economic situation. Restrictions on goods crossing the international borders have been a negative factor as well. According to some international observers about 30% of Afghanistan’s 39 million people are facing malnutrition. “Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis”, Reuters, October 23, 2021.
Public Health Facilities – Capabilities Degraded. Many hospitals are now severely under-staffed, medical equipment is no longer operating, and medicines on short supply. International donors have suspended aid that had funded the bulk of public medical services in Afghanistan. One hospital used to deliver 100 babies a day, but they are now down to less than 15 because of staff shortages and other factors. “With aid slow to enter Afghanistan, public health facilities are turning many patients away”, The Washington Post, October 20, 2021.
Salafists At Risk. Since the Taliban has seized power the group has waged a campaign against Islamic State – Khorasan . . . and also has been cracking down on members of the Salafist community. The ultraradical sect under Sunni Islam is concentrated in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar, and Nuristan – also the primary operational area and support zones for IS-K. “Taliban Wages Deadly Crackdown on Afghan Salafists as War with IS-K Intensifies”, Gandhara, October 22, 2021.
Afghanistan’s Future Economic Slump and the Refugee Problem. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that the neighboring countries will be feeling the effects of a downward turn of Afghanistan’s economy. Many countries – like Pakistan and Uzbekistan – have a sizeable amount of commerce transiting the border, in both directions. The IMF’s regional outlook for the region is dismal – citing the large influx of refugees that will become a burden for the refugee-hosting countries. The IMF estimates that more than 1 million Afghans will flee the violence or economic hardships under the Taliban regime. Central Asian countries are holding to their statements that they will not accept refugees unless the international community helps with funding. “IMF warns Afghanistan’s economic slump will impact neighbours”, BBC News, October 20, 2021.
Analysis and Think Tank Stuff
ANDSF and Lessons Learned. There have been many AARs on the defeat of the ANDSF, fall of the Afghan government, and failure of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Jonathan Schroden, recognized by many as an expert on ‘all things Afghanistan’, has provided his thoughts in a West Point publication. He presents six themes from a close examination of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces collapse in 2021 and derives three key lessons. His 17-page report, including four pages of citations, is available online. “Lessons from the Collapse of Afghanistan’s Security Forces”, CTC Sentinel, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, PDF, October 2021.
Photo: Evacuees from Afghanistan look out of an airplane window at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Spain, Sept. 6, 2021. NAVSTA Rota is supporting the Department of State mission to facilitate the safe relocation of U.S. citizens, Special Immigration Visa recipients, and vulnerable populations from Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Claudia Nix)